Saturday, July 4, 2015

Farm day...

I had a lovely day today. Nothing really scheduled and hours of perfect weather to putter and catch up in.
After morning chores the first order of the day was to move the broiler chicks and the layer chicks out to the pasture. This meant that Chris and I took up the electrified poultry netting we were using to make a temporary goat pasture, and moved it to where I wanted the chicks to be. After we got it all put up, we moved the hutch the chicks sleep in to their new space, and then carried food and water out there for them. Then it was time to try to catch the chicks. The broilers are round and ungainly, but surprisingly nimble when they don't choose to be caught. And they never choose to be caught. That being said, they were far easier to gather up than the little layer chicks were. Daughter Rachel and her boyfriend helped. It took a while, but we finally got them all rounded up. They happily explored their new space, eating grass and clover and chasing bugs.

The new little "Silky Palace" is snugged up in a corner of the back yard, looking sweet.

I put down some clean, bright shavings, and food and water containers, then tucked the girls in. They looked most approving of their new abode. One cocked her head at me and crooned, as if to say, "What took you so long?" I can't wait to see them explore the back yard tomorrow.

The goats are enjoying the deep grass in the meadow and the pretty weather, too. If I go to the pasture and call them, they run to me, gleefully.

Little Ramchop, my friends lamb, is growing on me. This FACE. It is adorable. He has a deep, resonant voice, calling, "Maa!" when he sees me, hoping I'll bring grain and treats.

I sat in the pasture for a bit, and the goats all gathered around me. They snuffled my face and huffed their warm breath in my ears. It smells like fresh mowed grass when they exhale, rather pleasant. But when the burp (and they often do) the smell is enough to curl my hair. They don't care. The press against me, leaning on me, clearly happy with my company. And I am happy with theirs.

Little Jane Doe is getting prettier every day. She is sleek and soft and sweet, and snuggles when she gets the chance. I'm glad we are keeping her. Her ears are a riot.

I'm not sure if it's my imagination or not, but Luna seems to be a bit better. She is still very thin, but she seems brighter and bossier and that makes me happy.

This Independence Day weekend is an anniversary of several major events in our lives. Chris and I met this weekend in '84, found out we were expecting our daughter this weekend in '88, moved to Memphis this weekend in '89, and then moved to Maine this weekend 12 years ago. I look back with such gratitude for all of those events, especially the one where I met Chris, who makes all of the happiest aspects of my life possible.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Farewell friend...

At the end of our driveway, in a little triangle of land, stood a big, old, beautiful maple tree. In the fall it's leaves were a glory of color, in winter its graceful branches stood out in lovely silhouette against the sky. Springtime brought a blush of delicate new green, and in summer there was cool shade cast into our yard. We loved the tree. Rachel's guy friends like to scurry up it like squirrels, and dangle from its branches, all sinew and bravado. But the tree was not well.

Every wind storm brought piles of dead branches littering the ground beneath it. Each year fewer leaves grew, and those that did appear turned a sickly yellow orange by early August and fell to the ground, defeated. Since it was such a large tree, I worried that a storm would send it crashing down, perhaps on top of someones car. So we hired a tree guy to come and put our friend to rest.

He arrived at 8:00 AM. Alone. I thought he'd bring some guys along to help him, this was a big job. He went to work, slowly, steadily, methodically. His chain saw roared to life and he began to cut off the lower limbs. The sound of branches hitting the ground made me sad. I spent the day wishing the tree was strong and thriving. All the while I watched the tree guy go about his business.

He left the firewood there for us to split and move and stack. He tossed the branches into the woods. The few boughs that had leaves went over the fence to the goats. They were delighted and spent the day eating and eating some more.

And now when I look outside, there is a void. A big vacant space where the lovely tree once was. My entire day has had a tone of sadness about it, beating to the drone of the chainsaw and percussion of wood hitting the earth.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Good to be me...

It has been said that if you desire something, you should, "put it out into the universe." I'm not sure about that, but something recently happened to me that makes me wonder.

Here is the story. Recently someone gave me 3 Silky chickens. Silkie's are utterly adorable. They are small, with blue skin, and lots of fluffy feathers that look like hair. They don't lay many eggs, and serve very little purpose besides being friendly and cute. I've always liked them, and was very excited by the gift. The birds settled in well, but the bigger chickens seem to frighten them a bit. I got the idea that they needed their very own "Silky Palace." I began the hunt for a small, attractive coop that would keep the birds safe and happy, and be decorative at the same time. I thought I could put the pleasant looking coop in the back yard, and pictured it with window boxes, a charming home to epically darling little fluffy birds.

I began to hunt for a coop that would fit the bill. There were rather cheaply made coops available for a bit under $300, and a very well built one for $500. I vacillated, I waffled. Spending that much money to house birds that were free seemed rather ridiculous. But every night when the little Silkie's didn't want to go inside the coop with the big birds, I felt awful.

Then one day while I was grooming a favorite cat, and chatting with his owner, she asked how my new fluffy chickens were doing. I explained my story, and told her I was getting ready to spend a ridiculous amount of money on a new house for them. She got a funny look on her face, and became quiet for a while.

I kept on working. After a little bit she said, "I only have one chicken left, and I have a very nice custom made coop. My chicken needs to be with other chickens. What if I give you my coop and you take my chicken to live at your house so she can be part of a flock?" I thought this was a BRILLIANT plan. We went and saw the coop. It was perfect. A nice size,super sturdy, custom built and very attractive. And the price? It was RIGHT!

But it wasn't light. And it was not positioned in such a way that loading it up to haul away would be easy. So I did what I must, and asked my pal Scott for help. Scott is one of THOSE guys. The kind of guy than can do anything, and make it look easy. I hate to ask him to help me do things, because he is so busy, but I really wanted this coop. He oh-so-kindly rose to occasion. After a long week of work, he loaded up all the things needed to move a heavy, awkwardly shaped object from point A to point B. My epically patient husband helped. He is always there when I need him. I am so lucky.

Scott had a 4 wheeler, a trailer, a truck and a whole cacophony of tools.

And in what seemed like a blink the deed was done. It delights me to see highly competent people work. To me it is poetry in motion. The sweet little coop was loaded up and snugly secured. Tomorrow Scott will deliver it to our house. And that will be a whole new post.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

School lunch...

Several years ago, when I worked at a grooming shop that had bird feeders outside the window, I was able to witness something wonderful. A mama woodpecker brought her chick to a suet cage and carefully taught it how to find food there. I have hoped, ever since, to see a similar sight.

This morning, while I was outside doing chores, I heard a lot of activity at the bird feeder near the arbor. I glanced up, and to my total delight, saw a male Hairy Woodpecker with two chicks. The chicks look exactly like the adults, but perhaps a little fluffier. And they behave uniquely; fluttering their wings in a begging fashion, and vocalizing a lot.

I stood, transfixed...

The father, boasting red feathers on his head, fluttered about, showing the chicks where to go. He pulled bits of suet from the feeder and poked it into their greedy bills. Before long he moved off, and one chick approached the feeder on it's own, tasting the cake.

I keep suet out all year long, for this very reason. Adult birds come often, and I have waited anxiously to see them bring chicks. I have been richly rewarded. Hopefully the chicks will remember where to find a good feed and come back for years to come.

A bit later another creature came to the feeder...

Squirrels eat too much and can be destructive, but I don't get many here and this one was awfully cute.

I can hardly wait to see what sort of wildlife I'll get to glimpse tomorrow.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Father's Day, postponed...

Poor Chris. He spent all of Father's Day schlepping me about to get my new truck. So we did "take #2" today. First on the agenda was Rachel and I cooking his favorite breakfast, sausage with biscuits and gravy. It's just plain not good for us, so I typically only make it twice a year, his birthday and fathers day.

It started with making biscuits.

It occurred to me that it was a bit poetic to be baking scratch biscuits in a 100 year old farm house. Then it came to me that it was even neater because I was using fresh milk from my goats, and lard I had rendered myself from a pig we raised! How many "modern" people do that?

Next we cooked up some sausage and made a pan of thick gravy. Daughter Rachel wanted a lesson, to see if she could improve her technique. It came out well, rich in flavor and deeply creamy.

Our efforts were met with approval.

Later Rachel took Chris out to lunch and to a movie. I think his second take on his special day was good.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Hay day...

It does not matter what your plans may be, if the hay farmer up the street shows up at 8:00AM and tells you he will be cutting hay that day, and offers you a great deal to pick the bales up in the field, you simply change your plans and go get hay. Chris made the first few trips solo, as I was still working, but I joined him as quickly as I could. We took Proud Mary, (our "new" truck,) for her first utility farm trip.

To our delight, we were able to fit 20 bales of hay in the bed for each trip! Our "little" truck did big work. The weather was beyond perfect, sunny but not hot, with a sweet breeze. We got 100 bales of hay home and tucked safely under cover in no time. Here is what is funny about living in Maine. Just as summer really settles in, it is time to prepare for the cold months. It is time to put hay up, to get your firewood laid in, to make sure any cracks in your foundation are filled to keep the cold air out. Part of the enjoyment we find in summer here is found in the preparation for the cold days to come.

The freshly mowed field smelled like what summer would smell like if you were able to bottle it. Sweet,warm and clean. And happy. It smelled of happy.
Around the edges of the hay field wild low bush blueberries grew. From a distance they look like squatty scrub.

Up close the small, woody bushes are laden with ripening fruit. Each berry is creamy white, tinged with a kiss of pink.

When the crop ripens the whole barren, (that is what a blueberry field is called) will have a lovely haze of blue about it.

With the work day done and the hay stowed, I did evening chores at a snails pace. I chose to take my time and enjoy the process. I sat and watched the pigs savor they supper, I walked the pasture, throwing a ball for Ziva to chase, I was still for a long time watching the poultry.

Hay day interrupted our plans, but it was a good day all told.

Thursday, June 25, 2015


Yesterday I had the supreme honor of accompanying my friend on a trip to New Hampshire. We were on a mission to find happiness.

We found him. His name is Tripp. He is an 8 week old American Cocker Spaniel. He kissed and kissed and kissed and then napped. Most of the long drive home he was sound asleep. There were periodic breaks for kissing, then more napping. I fell in love, hard. My job was to hold him while my friend drove. I felt a little guilty, but those velvet lips on my face erased that feeling. She'll get to have him to herself for years. But I had one, perfect, day.